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Project title or topic of activity

Life In The Rocky Intertidal

Author(s): Summer Morgan

Date: Fall 1999


Summary of Activity
50-100 words

The students will do this activity after they have visited the Rocky Intertidal station at Marine Discovery. They will already have an understanding of tidepools and some of the survival challenges that intertidal organisms face.

The students will spend one class period (about an hour) reviewing intertidal concepts. The Intertidal zone is sometimes covered with water and sometimes left dry, so an extremely challenging environment is presented to the organisms that live there. The children will be divided into groups of four and asked to chose materials to construct intertidal organisms. The organisms the students create should exhibit adaptive characteristics. The children will have to show that the organism has a way to eat, a way to avoid predation, a defense mechanism, and a way to avoid drying out. Students will use the materials provided to show this. For example, by incorporating a piece of sponge or filter into their organism, they may be showing that their organism filter feeds. Pipe cleaners could possibly show suspension feeding or even a possible defense mechanism. The children will explain each part of their organism when they are finished and they present it to the rest of the class. After presenting their organism and we discuss it, they will have a chance to modify their organism.


Grade levels

Grade level 4 is targeted for this activity.

General description or introduction
The scientific principles that the activity is founded on.

Because the rocky interidal zone is sometimes covered with water and sometimes left dry, an extremely challenging environment is presented to the organisms that live there. These organisms must possess special adaptive characteristics to survive.

Background information

The rocky intertidal zone is the area between the high and low tides, including the "splash zone." The splash zone, or spray zone, is the area where the water splashes when the tide is high and is almost always exposed to air. The intertidal area is broken up into four zones. Zone 1, the splash zone, is the zone furthest from the water. It is composed entirely of the sand, is rarely completely underwater, and has relatively few species, while the opposite is true for Zone 4. Each zone is composed of different substrates and is inhabited by very divergent organisms. Each zone presents its residents with a unique set of difficulties and living conditions. It is an extremely challenging environment for organisms to live in. Organisms must possess special adaptive characteristics to survive.

Credit for the activity

This activity is my original idea. Although we did do an activity in class where we constructed organisms, the ones that we made had nothing to do with rocky intertidal. I became very interested in the rocky intertidal zone while doing the Rocky Intertidal station in Marine Discovery. The station gives the children a chance to participate to a great degree as they learn about life in the rocky intertidal. I got information from web sources and also from the Marine Discovery Class Notes.

Estimated time to do the activity

{Time Estimate}

Goals of Activity:

Goal A
The children will learn about life in the rocky intertidal. They will practice what they already know about the major concerns facing intertidal organisms: food, avoiding predation, and drying out.

Goal B
Students will use their creativity, teamwork skills, and apply the knowledge they just learned to create a product/model.

Goal C
This activity will make the students more aware of their participation in conservation and keeping the ocean and intertidal zones clean and safe. Hopefully, students will make a conscience effort to practice conservation and safety.

Goal D
{Goal D}


National Science Education Standards. (NSES)

Two content standards that this lesson plan covers:

Standard 1
My lesson plan follows the idea that from the earlest grades, students should experience science in a form that engages them in the active construction of ideas and explanations and enhance their opportunities to develop the abilities of doing science.

Standard 2
My lesson plan develops inquiry skills and follows the idea that as students focus on the processes of doing investigations they develop the ability to ask science questions, investigate aspects fo the world around them and use their observations to construct reasonable explanations for the questions posed. page 121


Materials Needed

  • saranwrap,
  • aluminum foil
  • toothpicks
  • paper clips
  • Q-tips
  • pipe cleaners
  • construction paper,
  • poster board,
  • cardboard
  • styrofoam circles,
  • squares, and sheets
  • glue,
  • scissors,
  • tape,
  • stapler & staples
  • straws


The instructor will need to familiarize himself/herself with the text/material provided, and also gather the materials for the organism construction.

Step-by-Step Procedure for the Activity

The class will spend a one hour class period going over rocky intertidal zone characteristics, tides, indicator species, substrate types, the forces that affect intertidal organisms, feeding/predation behaviors.We will essentially be allowing the students to apply what they have learned whild participating in Marine Discovery (rocky intertidal station). We will go over the intertidal zones in more detail and then use a hands on approach while teaching about intertidal organisms.

The class will be divided into groups of 4 students per group and will be asked to chose from the materials provided, enough materials to construct an organism that they believe would survive life conditions in the rocky intertidal. Students should be able to show that the organism they present exhibits protective features, a way to eat, a way to avoing predation, a way to avoid drying out, and a way to attach to a substrate or to find somewhere protected to tuck themselves away from wave action or predators.

When the organisms/models are completed, the students will present their model to the class and explain why they think their organism is most suitable to survive life in the rocky intertidal. Their models will be judged.

Images, work sheets, additional web pages

{none available}

Items for discussion or conclusion

1st question

What are some of the dangers facing rocky intertidal organisms?

2nd question
Does your organism have a feeding structure? Does it filter feed? Suspension feed?

3rd question
Some of the organisms in the rocky intertidal are genetically identical. What would an advantage of this be? A disadvantage?

4th question
{Question 4}


Because the rocky intertidal zone is sometimes covered with water and sometimes left dry, an extremelly challenging environment is presented to the organisms that live there. These organisms must possess special adaptive characteristics to survive. Do the organisms that the students created exhibit these adaptive characteristics? After the students all present their organism model to the class, they will be given the opportunity to make adjustments/alterations to their models.

Beyond the Activity
Further activities which relate to and extend the complexity of the experiment.

Activities focusing on the advantages/disadvantages of being single-celled or multicellular, photosynthetic properties, and mutualisms would all relate to and extend the complexity of the experiment as well as broaden the childrens' knowledge of life in the rocky intertidal.

Web Resources
A web address with information on the topic of the activity.

Web Address

Additional References

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures